Retired welterweight Chris (Lights Out) Lytle fought 19 times in the UFC and knows anything can happen in a sport that offers so many different ways to win and lose.
So Lytle is not about to write off the chances of heavy underdog Alexander (The Mauler) Gustafsson in his UFC 165 main event Saturday night with light-heavyweight champion Jon (Bones) Jones.
“Jon Jones is on a big streak, he’s done fantastic, he looks unstoppable,” said the 39-year Lytle, an Indianapolis firefighter. “But everybody’s stoppable.”
Then, after talking up what he calls an intriguing matchup for Jones against the big Swede, Lytle paused. And took a step back into reality.
“That being said, man, ever since Jon Jones in his fourth (UFC) fight when he dismantled (Matt) Hamill, I remember thinking I don’t see anybody being able to beat him for a while,” he added with a laugh. “I don’t know, he’s really tough to beat.”
UFC president Dana White, who loves to dismiss the odds in talking up his main events, has been candid this week.
“Jones is good,” he said. “Really good.”
Ask fellow fighters about the 26-year-old Jones and they go into fan mode.
“He’s athletic as all hell, for sure,” said heavyweight Matt Mitrione, a former NFL lineman. “As a fighter, he’s creative, he’s lanky, he uses his body extremely well. He gains a tremendous amount of leverage.
“If somebody’s on the ground beneath him, that is not a good place to be.”
Unless you are a specialist in facial reconstruction.
Former heavyweight Brandon (The Truth) Vera needed surgery after being battered by Jones’ elbows.
“And he’s really confident as a fighter,” Mitrione continued. “And that’s when he’s really dangerous.”
Added bantamweight contender Eddie Wineland: “He brings stuff that nobody’s ever brought before. You see him throwing stuff that you don’t think possible and that’s what you like to see.”
Jones (18-1) actually lost the Hamill fight – on a disqualification for a downward elbow. But he stood over a broken opponent when it was all over, after delivering more than 40 elbow strikes to Hamill who needed shoulder surgery in being ragdolled to the canvas.
In subsequently winning and defending the UFC title, Jones has beaten five former champions and Chael Sonnen, who has fought for both the middleweight and light-heavyweight crowns.
Only Lyota (The Dragon) Machida won a round from him. Only Vitor (The Phenom) Belfort took him to deep waters via an armbar attempt. Only Rashad Evans took him the distance.
Jones responded by locking a standing guillotine choke on Machida in the second round, rendering the black belt in jiu-jitsu and karate unconscious before dropping him on the canvas like a sack of mail.
After Belfort had his moment, Jones carved open his face – the significant strike count was 65-16 for the champion– before trying to rip his arm off with a keylock submission in the fourth round. And Evans was outstruck 105-45.
Jones is a thoroughbred: bigger, faster and better equipped.
The six-foot-four Jones has used his 84.5-inch reach to blunt opponent attacks, while unleashing a whirlwind of punches, elbows and kicks.
Jones has never been taken down or knocked down in the UFC. Gustafsson (15-1) has also never been knocked down, but he hasn’t faced the opposition that Jones has.
Montreal welterweight Patrick (The Predator) Cote believes that Gustafsson’s only chance for success is to keep the fight standing.
“Gustafsson is pretty good with his hands, he’s pretty aggressive and he has nothing to lose,” said Cote.
“He’s supposed to lose in the eyes of everybody,” he added. “That’s very dangerous, to fight a guy like that.”
But Cote sees Jones’s wrestling as the difference.
Jones has never been taken down in the UFC, defending all 16 attempts he has faced. Gustafsson, who has won six straight, has defended 16 of 19 takedown attempts for a 84.2-per cent success rate (the UFC average is 59 per cent).
Jones is a 9-1 favourite or better. Even the UFC, no stranger to hyping fights of all descriptions, has seemed unsure how to sell this showdown.
The hyperbole is off the chart.
In pay-per-view promos, Gustafsson is described as a dynamic Swedish superstar who is the toughest test of Jones’s career. The fact that the Swede is one inch taller than the champion has been played up with strategic clips shot from below showing Gustafsson’s head near the top of a doorway.
A more accurate promo might read that the 26-year-old Swede has size, knows what to do with his hands and been on a good run against decent opposition. And that Gustafsson, the top-ranked contender, will give Jones something to do until his next challenge against Brazilian bruiser Glover Teixeira, who is in the 205-pound on-deck circle.
The 33-year-old Teixeira is ranked the No. 2 contender and is riding a 20-fight win streak including five straight in the UFC.
There are seven Canadians fighting on the 13-bout card, but none on the five-fight main card. The closest to a Canadian on the pay-per-view portion is French middleweight Francis Carmont who trains in Montreal.
Interim bantamweight title-holder Renan Barao meets Wineland, a former WEC champion, in the co-main event at Air Canada Centre.
The 135-pound fight has special weight in that the winner may be upgraded to the real champion if current title-holder Dominick Cruz is not ready to fight by early 2014. Cruz has been sidelined since October 2011 due to two knee surgeries.
The card is the UFC’s fourth in Toronto and 14th in Canada.